20. Should Atlanta trade Marcus Giles?

Could the Braves keep Rafael Furcal by trading his double play partner? As Bill Shanks continues his 35-part series on the top questions facing the Braves this winter, he analyzes whether a trade of Giles would help the organization.

Many Braves' fans have tried to figure out some way to keep Rafael Furcal. As the rumors continue to swirl that the Mets or Cubs are getting ready to offer him more than necessary, fans are getting somewhat creative in figuring out how Furcal can stay with the Braves.

One interesting question is whether or not the team should trade Marcus Giles in order to financially make room for Furcal. The logic is that there's little chance the Braves will be able to keep both Giles and Furcal long-term. So if Furcal is the most valuable of the two, perhaps he should be given the big money and Giles should be traded away.

So the first question should be which one of the two is the best player? Well we could argue all day about that, with people probably being somewhat split on the issue.

In fact, when we discussed the issue Tuesday night in a chat on the website, Braves' fans were very split. Some believed Furcal was just too valuable to let go, while others believed Giles had the best long-term potential and added more to the team.

One thing that should be mentioned is the trade rumor that popped up before the trade deadline. Several outlets reported that Giles was almost traded to the Rangers, along with Jorge Sosa, for Alfonso Soriano and Kevin Mench. Don't expect John Schuerholz to confirm any rumor, so it's just something to make you wonder whether the Braves actually had some interest in making a change at second base.

Did the trade rumor mean the Braves prefer Furcal over Giles? Or was it just a quick chance to shake up the lineup?

Giles has a lot of ancillary value to this team. He's behind much of the energy and enthusiasm you saw this past season. True, the kids may have brought that out, but Giles was right there in all of it. He is a team leader, and his energy is contagious.

And what about Furcal? Well, he's not as vocal as Giles, but he's very well-liked by his teammates and Braves' personnel.

If the Braves decided Furcal was the better player, they'd have to give him a huge contract. Before it's over, Furcal will likely get a deal for $10 million per season. If they did that, Giles (and others) would have to be traded away, and they'd have to be dealt for players that wouldn't add much to the payroll, which might be tricky.

But there is no doubt that the Braves could command a huge price for Giles. He's arguably one of the best second baseman in the game. Would the A's want him this winter again? Perhaps, but the Braves wouldn't be able to acquire Barry Zito for Giles, since Zito makes $8.5 million next season. Trading Giles could be difficult. He'd command a high price, but it would have to be an inexpensive price.

If the Braves re-sign Furcal, you could almost expect Giles to be traded in the next two months. It's just hard to imagine finding the money to have both of them for the long-term. If Chipper Jones were to restructure his contract, then it might be possible. But it would seem unlikely.

Another thing to consider is the organizational depth chart. The Braves have several short-term (Wilson Betemit) and long-term (Yunel Escobar and Elvis Andrus) candidates in place to possibly replace Furcal. But the situation is not as deep at second base, where Martin Prado is the only legit starting candidate, and even Prado is not in the same level as the shortstop prospects. If Giles were traded, we'd have to find someone to play second base, and the internal replacements are not as viable as they are for shortstop.

So this should be considered a real possibility, particularly since the Braves do love Furcal. But it's just unlikely to happen. The Mets or Cubs are going to offer Furcal the moon, and the Braves have to look at the big picture, not just 2006, and decide that they do have people in place to replace their stellar shortstop. Keeping him is one thing, but trading Marcus Giles to make it happen is just too drastic a move to make.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. Bill can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com.

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